Outlaw motorcycle clubs, also known as biker gangs, began to take root in the wake of World War II when millions of young American males returned home from battlefronts.

As it turned out, a lot of those men had difficulties re-acclimating to civilian life. They were so used to the idea of a transparent chain of command and strict disciplines to survive, but they didn’t see such things outside the military.

A healthy postwar economy, including veterans’ severance pay, enabled them to purchase the motorcycles and joined various clubs that gave male bonding experience with all the camaraderie and risk-taking activities. 

Starting as a way to escape the harsh process of re-acclimation to everyday life, motorcycle clubs have transformed into large business-like organizations that must sustain their operations and members’ well-being.

They need steady cash flow, but at the same time, the clubs have prominent business models. Over the years, some motorcycle clubs engage in business enterprises as criminal organizations, such as drugs, prostitution, weapons, and theft.

While law enforcement thinks of outlaw motorcycle clubs as outright illegal operations, members see themselves as parts of fraternal societies.

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) suggests 99 percent of motorcyclists are law-abiding citizens; in other words, the remaining one percent is made up of outlaws. Some of the most notorious “one-percenter gangs” are as follows.

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10 /10 Hell's Angels

Made famous in the 1967 book Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs by author Hunter S. Thompson, the outlaw motorcycle club had been in existence for almost 20 years before it was published.

Until today, Hell’s Angels probably is the most prominent one-percenter gang with a territory that spans nationwide and roughly 2,500 members to support it.

Hell’s Angels are believed to engage in all sorts of criminal activities, including illegal drug distribution, murder, assault, racketeering, robbery, etc. The United States Department of Justice considers the club an organized crime syndicate.

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9 /10 Bandidos

Donald Chambers founded Bandidos Motorcycle Club in 1966. Traditionally it is the gang in charge of Texas territory, although active in many other South areas. Members count in the range of 2,500 strong in the United States alone.

Outside the United States, Bandidos is present in more than 20 countries with several hundred chapters. The gang specializes in drug smuggling across the US-Mexico border, and some members have been accused of multiple murders.

The United States Department of Justice and Europol considers Bandidos Motorcycle Club a criminal organization.

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8 /10 Outlaws

The boom of motorcycle clubs in the United States during the postwar years and the economy gave birth to many biker gangs in the country.

Outlaws Motorcycle Club, which brands itself as the original one, had been born in 1935, a decade before WWII ended. The territory covers the eastern and central U.S.

One of its primary sources of income is drug smuggling at the Canadian border. However, the club has a rap sheet that includes murders in at least ten states in the U.S. and several more capital offenses in Belgium and U.K.


7 /10 Pagans

The most secretive of all one-percenter gangs is Pagan’s Motorcycle Club, often referred to as The Pagans.

Founded in 1959 before Hells Angels and Bandidos, no one knows how big The Pagans is. Some estimates suggest that the member’s count is in the range of 1,300 with more than 100 chapters all across the United States. It is mostly active on the East Coast.

In 2018, a clubhouse bust in Rhode Island unveiled a large stash of illegal weapons, including a rocket launcher. The Pagans are part of the “Big Four” and Hells Angels, Bandidos, and Outlaws.

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6 /10 Vagos

Despite boasting a public image as a law-abiding motorcycle club, the Vagos is just as bad as biker gangs get. To enhance the good-behavior appearance, sometimes members even handout toys at Christmas. More importantly, they never refer to themselves as gangs.

Behind closed doors, the Vagos is involved in large scale drug smuggling from both sides of the Mexican border. In 2011, members were also involved in the assassination of Hells Angels’ member in Nevada.

More recently, in February 2020, the Vagos Motorcycle Club beat the Federal Government’s RICO charges.

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5 /10 Mongols

While not as large as the Vagos or having the same widespread influence as Hells Angels, the SoCal-based biker gang known as the Mongols Motorcycle Club is steadily growing more robust; with close ties to the street gangs in the area, the Mongols was able to seize control of SoCal from the Hells Angels in the 1980s.

Today the Mongols have about 2,000 members, and most are Hispanic and Native Americans. The club itself was founded by motorcyclists who were denied entry to Hells Angels because of their race.


4 /10 Sons Of Silence

In the Midwest and South, the Sons of Silence is a relatively small outlaw motorcycle club with just several hundred members.

What they lack in size, they make up for in reputation. Despite the little member’s count, the cruelty is anything but.

They started in Colorado in 1966, then began to carve out more territories in Arizona and Kansas. The club later aligned with Hell’s Angels for protection. Sons of Silence also has a strong presence in Germany.


3 /10 Highwaymen

A one-percenter motorcycle club was known as “Highwaymen” has been a subject of large scale FBI investigations throughout the decades. Several members were convicted of raids and bombings of rivals’ clubhouses in the early 1970s.

It has more than 300 members, with the most extensive presence in the Detroit area but is also active in Tennessee, Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, and Florida.

The “Marlboro Marine” James Blake Miller is a known member of the Highwaymen Motorcycle Club. Many members are veterans who have PTSD.


2 /10 Warlocks

Even the criminal underworld of outlaw motorcycle clubs has its own rules and codes of conduct. Among all one-percenter gangs known to law enforcement, Warlocks seems to be the worst of them all.

Some other clubs see themselves as too respectable and upstanding to be associated with Warlocks. 

With a history of indiscriminate killings of police officers and extreme violence, it is no surprise that Warlocks members are sometimes regarded as “low-lives” by rivals. Mostly active in Florida, the gang also has a presence in Canada.


1 /10 Black Pistons

Established in 2002, the Black Pistons is the youngest outlaw motorcycle club on the list. It has more than 400 members with 70 chapters in 20 states, a testament to how quickly it has grown.

One thing that makes Black Pistons different is how it has positioned itself among other biker gangs.

It is the official support club for The Outlaws; when the jobs are so dirty that The Outlaws is too reluctant to get directly involved, Black Pistons showed up. In many cases, members are tasked with dealing drugs and assaulting The Outlaws’ rivals.

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